Clean Air Day 2022: Air pollution impacts every organ in the body

The evidence base behind Clean Air Day, the UK’s largest campaign on air pollution by Global Action Plan, today reveals the weight of scientific evidence has strengthened, thereby allowing the organisation to publicly confirm for the first time that air pollution can impact every organ in the body. 

The relationship between air pollution and our health has been studied for decades. However, 2022 is the first year Global Action Plan’s review of the evidence base, which is approved by a number of expert bodies, has been able to confirm that air pollution can have health impacts on every major organ in the body, can shorten our lives, contribute towards chronic illness and put us more at risk from COVID-19. When we breathe polluted air, it can inflame the lining of our lungs, moving into our bloodstream ending up in the heart and brain, causing lung disease, heart disease, dementia, strokes, and cancer.   

As part of Global Action Plan’s ongoing measurement of public attitudes and behaviours around air pollution in partnership with Opinium, survey data (conducted in June 2022) shows the lack of public awareness on the extent of the health impacts of air pollution. Poor air quality dirties every organ in the body, but Brits only connect it with lung related health issues. 

·       Nearly half (49%) of people think air pollution is connected to worsening of asthma symptoms and 46% to development of asthma.  

·       44% also rightly connect it to poor lung function development, 42% bronchitis, and 35% lung cancer. 

·       Only 12% of Brits associate it with strokes, 10% with dementia, and 18% poor brain development. 

While public understanding on the health impacts of air pollution is imperative, it is also important that people understand there are actions they can take to decrease air pollution.  

Global Action Plan’s Clean Air Day campaign explains the health impacts, but also showcases the simple steps we can all take to reduce the air pollution we cause and the positive impact that taking action will have for us and our wider community. Whilst these actions are important to give people the agency to tackle air pollution, the campaign also recognises the crucial role that decision makers play in creating clean air communities for all.  

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